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What Is a Vpn and Why Do People Use It?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. By using a VPN, you are using the internet privately. Your online identity becomes hidden as data gets transmitted from your device to websites and applications. You don’t get tracked and you remain anonymous while using the internet.
How do VPNs Work?
VPNs are used for security purposes, especially when using public WiFi where your online information is at considerable risk of being infringed on. To understand how that risk occurs, here is a breakdown of what happens when you look up a website:
- When you make a connection to a website, your browser performs a lookup on the domain name from Domain Name Services (DNS) servers.
- Your browser fetches the website’s IP address, and then connects to its server.
- You are now connected to the website.
- This connection is encrypted–data is converted to “code” to prevent unauthorised access using something called SSL/TLS.
- SSL/TLS are meant to provide security but they are highly vulnerable and can be bypassed by a third party. This is when the VPN helps by securing your data.
When you have a VPN, the process changes as follows:
- When you make a connection to a website, the VPN – not your browser – performs a lookup on the domain name from Domain Name Services (DNS) servers.
- Your VPN fetches the website’s IP address and then connects to the server.
- You are now connected to the website.
- This connection is encrypted via your VPN, not SSL/TLS, making it more secure.
This rerouting process is called “tunnelling”. The idea is that the VPN service opens a “tunnel” between you and the website or application you are connected to. The VPN then sends your data through this “tunnel” so no one has access to it and your browsing activities are secured and protected.
What’s a VPN Used For?
1. Heightened Security
As explained, tunnelling makes all connections you make from your device hidden. You are safeguarded from tracking, snooping or any data breaches that have become commonplace at a time when we are literally always connected.
Public Wi-Fi is mostly free and extremely convenient, but it’s almost an open gateway to data compromises and malware. VPNs are also often used by companies to allow remote employees to securely connect to the company network.
2. Bypassing geographical restrictions
Some online content is only available in specific geographical locations. A VPN overrides these restrictions and allows users to access sites that are blocked in their respective locations.
3. Avoiding price manipulations
Several online shopping and airfare websites manipulate price points based on your browsing history, locations and other data that they were able to track through your unsecured browser. A VPN gives you the anonymity to manoeuvre marketing tactics that are often predatory and meant to game online shoppers into paying higher prices.
Do VPNs affect internet speed?
A very common drawback of VPNs is the impact they have on your internet speed. Because the VPN is essentially an intermediary between your device and the website, it introduces latency.
In very simple terms, latency is the time between making a request such as clicking on a link and when that link loads. VPNs are location-based, and if you are using a VPN that is not in close proximity, travel time becomes a factor. The encryption process also takes time, further slowing down turnaround time.
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The incredible speed that fibre runs at compensates for any delays that VPNs may introduce if you choose to use one. Because cable bandwidth already performs at average speeds, a VPN can cause a noticeable strain on performance. Fibre has plenty of bandwidth to spare, so the latency it may introduce becomes marginal, and you still have fast internet regardless.
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